This past August, I had the fortune of heading to Southeast Asia. Firstly, to Malaysia for a short and sweet visit to see my Grandparents and other relatives, before hopping over to Bali, Indonesia. The main purpose of the trip to Bali was to celebrate the nuptials between my friends Katie and Max (who reside in Brooklyn, NY), but since we were flying 10-thousand-something miles, naturally, we decided to make it a week-long vacation.
Only in Bali could we make it as multi-millionaires – upon arriving to the airport, exchanging a few hundred USD gave a few million Indonesian Rupiah. The villas we stayed in were comparable in luxury to absurdly-priced Southampton mansions, for a minuscule fraction of the price.
To make the most of our vacation, my friends and I decided to stay in different areas, so we could experience different towns within Bali. The first night I was there, we celebrated Katie’s Bali Bachelorette in Seminyak, beginning the night at Motel Mexicola (a fun taqueria), before continuing on at La Favela, a hidden jungle within a nightclub. This was probably one of my favorite places we went to in Bali, as the interior was unique and unlike any other spot I’d been to before.
Tips when taking transportation in Bali:
- If you happen to flag down a taxi (or taksi, as spelled in Bali), make sure the meter starts at 7000 IDR. Some drivers will try to scam you with a made-up price. It’ll cost you less, if you ask them to meter the ride.
- If you happen to find a driver that will take you around, do your research. We had a really great driver for the first few days we were there so we were tipping him extra, to be kind, but he got greedy and tried to take advantage of how much we were paying him.
Sleeping in a comfortable kingsize bed and waking up the next morning to a continental-Balinese buffet breakfast was amazing, to say the least. Nasi Goreng noodles, warm pancakes, buttered toast, fresh fruit, and thirst-defying watermelon juice was enough to make one feel fully revitalized after a big night out. After a post-breakfast swim in the pool, we made our way to our next destination: Ubud.
Ubud was by far my favorite town in Bali. While Seminyak was definitely a younger and more modern town, Ubud was very tranquil, with more culture and character. Our villa in Ubud was off the beaten path – literally. Our driver had to go down a 3-minute long winding and rocky dirt path, past a tractor and cows, before arriving in the most beautiful villa right next to a rice paddy field. Again, service was impeccable – we were greeted with fresh juice at the villa, and shown to our inviting rooms with outdoor bathrooms.
Dropping off our suitcases, we decided to head to Bebek Teba Sari for a feast with a view. Overlooking rice paddies, this is a spot I would definitely recommend checking out.
Tips for when dining out:
- Always buy bottled water. If you are ordering a soup or tea, make sure that the restaurant is using bottled or filtered water. Never ever, ever, ever drink tap water – not even when dining out – this applies everywhere in Bali. Even though it is inevitable – even if you’re careful about not drinking tap water – Bali belly is not a fun time.
- Try everything!
Following lunch, we did some shopping before heading to see the daily 6:30PM Sahadewa Kecak & Fire Dance. Kecak is a unique Balinese dance accompanied by a rhythmic chorus chanted by hundreds of men. The hour-long Kecak was watched told of a story of a Prince who was exiled from his Kingdom. The beautiful set, colorful costumes, and brilliant fire theatrics was an incredible experience. For those visiting Ubud, I would recommend it as something unique to see.
A tip for roaming around Bali in the evening:
- Bring mosquito repellent or use a sarong (found at most markets) to cover bare skin. If you’re a mosquito’s dream (like me!), beware – Zika is found in Bali.
The following morning, we woke up bright and early for a peaceful yoga session at Intuitive Flow Yoga studio. The journey there was worth the early wake up call, for the streets were not yet crowded with tourists. Instead, we crossed paths with children in school uniforms on the front of motorbikes, vendors setting up their market stalls, and the cheerful chirping of birds waking up. The walk to the yoga studio itself was a small scenic hike wherein each corner was utterly captivating.
Feeling refreshed from the yoga session, we returned to our villa to relax (some more).
To balance out the therapeutic morning, we decided to introduce some adventure into the day by heading to the Bali Swing at Zen Hideaway. There are plenty of things to do in Bali, but this was definitely at the top of my to-do list. Swinging over the Ayung River and looking out at the nature was such a thrill. If you’re a thrill-seeker, this one’s for you.
Next on the to-do list for the day was to check out the Sacred Monkey Forest.
Tips for those visiting the Sacred Monkey Forest:
- Keep your belongings close – A.K.A don’t wave your iPhone around. Monkeys will literally run up to people and steal things from your hands or pockets.
- Don’t stare down a monkey in the eyes – they find this threatening. We saw monkeys attacking people.
- Use your common sense. Monkeys are smart.
After a short time in the forest, we decided to grab a bite before checking out the strip of markets that were nearby.
Tips for those shopping in the market:
- Time to show off your haggling skills. Vendors will always try to highball you because they know you’re a tourist, so you should lowball – they will meet you somewhere in the middle.
- Don’t commit to something. If you see something you’re interested in, the next stall will have it – probably a better quality or at a better price. Walk the whole strip of stalls before going back. All the vendors basically sell the same thing.
- Bring enough cash. Legitimate ATMs can be hard to find, depending on which area you’re in. I’ve heard horror stories of accounts being emptied by using dodgy ATMs.
After a long eventful day, we drove from Ubud to Canggu to meet the rest of the bridal party. The village of Canggu is considered very “up and coming”, with an abundance of great restaurants and cafes, cute boutiques, and modern villas.
Heading down to Potato Head Beach Club to meet everybody, we were greeted with the view of a beautiful bar overlooking the beach. After a delicious espresso martini, we opted for a family-style dinner at Warung Dandelion.
The following morning, we revived ourselves with breakfast of champions at Gypsy Kitchen, a cafe that was next door to our villa.
Following this, we decided to do more shopping at the Love Anchor Markets. If you visit this market, check out Billie’s. It’s a cute gift store filled with items you never knew you needed. I ended up spending literally all my cash at Billie’s.
For afternoon lunch, we headed to Old Man’s for some fish and chips, before returning to our villa for a low-key swim in our pool.
That evening, it was Katie and Max’s Wedding Welcome Dinner. The dinner was at La Laguna – probably the closest place one will ever find to Alice’s Wonderland. The whole venue was like a scene out of Lewis Carroll’s book.
The next morning, it was ironic that we enjoyed our breakfast at The Slow, since all we had been doing since arriving to Bali was go, go, go. The fresh-pressed juices in glass bottles with glass straws are reason alone to dine here.
Following breakfast, we went to Spring Spa where we treated ourselves to oxygen facials. One thing I really miss about Bali is how inexpensive it was to pamper oneself – a facial that costs almost $200 in the U.S costs only $45 in Bali. Next, we continued the pampering with full-body massages. Oh, what a hard life.
That evening, the plan was to head to The Lawn Canggu to celebrate Katie’s last night as a “single woman”. I showed up for a hot minute before the aforementioned Bali Belly hit. Unfortunately, being the night before the wedding, I opted to go home and rest up. Sad face.
On Wedding Day, while both Bride and Groom were rushing around getting ready, the rest of us checked out Tanah Lot Temple. The weather was overcast and the tide was high so we were unable to visit the actual temple, but it was still a good experience.
A tip for people visiting any Temples in Bali (or any Temples in general):
- Dress respectfully and appropriately. I have visited many temples and know this, but some people don’t. It’s exactly the same as going to Church. Even though it feels like a million degrees in Bali, wrap yourself with a sarong before entering the Temple grounds. These are available to buy at the market outside the Temple.
Prior to the wedding, we did some last minute shopping before enjoying brunch at Betelnut Cafe. I was still feeling a little queasy from Bali Belly, but the wheatgrass shots at Betenut set me right.
When it came time for the wedding, everything was absolutely perfect. Bride and Groom looked beautiful, guests became fast friends, and the setting was intimate. I haven’t been to many weddings, but this one was definitely one that will be hard to top. Congratulations, again, to the happy couple.
On our last full day in Bali, following the wedding, we caught up over a post-wedding brunch at the villa Katie’s parents were staying at. With an infinity pool overlooking the beach, needless to say, our view was every Manhattanite’s dream.
Most of the friends we made were flying back to their respective homes (New York, Australia, England) that evening, so we had a final hurrah at Mrs Sippy in Seminyak.
We stopped in to a hotel rooftop bar where I just so happened to run into a friend from Australia, who I hadn’t seen in over five years. What are the odds? It’s a small world.
The whole time we were in Bali, although it was humid, we did not have the chance to Tanah Lot (pun intended), as we were too busy “touristing”. On our final morning in Bali, we headed out bright and early to Padung Padung Beach in Uluwatu and got some sun, before heading straight to the airport – sand in hair.
Thank you to Katie and Max for inviting us to celebrate their big day with them in Bali. Without this excuse to head to Indonesia, I may not have checked it off my bucket list. It has since become a spot I’d consider for a rejuvenating vacation, for many years to come. Reminiscing on the winding narrow roads where our car almost fell into the rice paddies, frogs leaping out of the grass in the middle of the road at night, screaming at my first sight of ants bigger than my fingernail, and the exhilaration I felt as I screamed out loud when basically catapulting over the Ayung River, my vacation to Bali is one I will always remember with fond memories.
Terima Kasih, Bali. I’ll be back, sooner rather than later.